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Six essential stories for Sherlock Holmes fans who never read the books

The Hound of the Baskervilles - First Edition Cover
By Kevinalewis at en.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

Was Sherlock Holmes actually a ‘high functioning sociopath’, as portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch in the BBC series 'Sherlock'? Is Rachel McAdams’ depiction of Irene Adler in the 'Sherlock Holmes' movies anything like the original character? Was Holmes really a drug addict, as played by Jonny Lee Miller in CBS’s 'Elementary'? If you love Sherlock in film and on television but you’ve never really read any of the original adventures here’s a list of six essential stories every fan should know (feel free to name your own choices in the comments). The game’s afoot!

1. 'A Scandal in Bohemia' (1891)

This was one of Conan Doyle’s personal favorites. Here Holmes engages in a crackling battle of wits with ‘the well-known adventuress’ Irene Adler. Although she only appears in one story Irene went on to become one of the most popular adversaries in the canon.

2. 'Silver Blaze' (1892)

In season two of 'Elementary' Holmes cracks a case by answering the curious question of why the dog did nothing in the night. This was a direct reference to 'Silver Blaze', one of the most popular stories in the canon, and one of the best plotted.

3. 'A Study in Scarlett' (1887)

The origin story. Here a brilliant young student named Sherlock Holmes, possessing a ‘profound’ knowledge of chemistry and no clue at all about how the Earth moves about the sun, first meets a former army surgeon named John Watson. The early passages inspired the pilot episode of the BBC series 'Sherlock'.

4. 'The Final Problem' (1893)

Holmes meets his doom, toppling into the Reichenbach Falls with Moriarty, the ‘Napoleon of crime’, though not quite the way it was depicted in 'Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows'. This is the only adventure in which Moriarty is featured directly, but this one appearance cast a long shadow, influencing future story-tellers who would frequently portray him in new stories as Holmes’ arch-enemy. This story will be of particular interest to fans of 'Sherlock' as it inspired the now famous season two closer where Holmes leaps to his death from the roof of a hospital, compelling thousands of fans to theorize about how Holmes might have survived.

5. 'The Adventure of the Empty House' (1903)

Ten years after killing Holmes off so he could concentrate on more serious work Conan Doyle capitulated to his fans and revived the popular detective, ingeniously explaining away his apparent demise. Here the remaining members of the Moriarty gang are defeated, and Holmes and Watson are reunited once again.

6. 'The Hound of the Baskervilles' (1902)

There are many famous quotes from the Holmesian canon, but arguably the greatest would be this line: ‘Mr. Holmes, they were the footprints of a gigantic hound!’ A deeply atmospheric thriller, and one of the best mystery novels of all time.

(For LA fans who want to know even more about the real Holmes there are several local groups you could join, including The Sherlock Holmes Breakfast Club and The Curious Collectors of Baker Street.)

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